Rosie McRackan raced around the bases at her T-Ball game with an excited, yet focused face as she kept her eye on home plate.
Pink helmet atop head, she had hit the ball with just as much accuracy as many of the other children on the team.
But 6-year-old Rosie is missing her left forearm and entire right leg. To play T-ball, she wears a prosthetic leg suited for running. Her prosthetic arm, although she doesn’t wear it on the field, matches the blue of her jersey.
For Rosie, life always has been about beating the odds, and her parents have worked hard to make feel as normal as possible.
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“I don’t think she realizes what her limitations are,” said Jessica McRackan, Rosie’s mother. “She loves T-Ball, and she believes she’s just as good as any other player on that team.”
That belief in herself is a driving force behind what Rosie does. Last year, she joined the Bluejays, a T-ball team with the Cary Parks and Recreation for 5- to 7-year-olds. She played with the team for a second season this summer.
The Bluejays are part of Cary Parks and Recreation’s Inclusion Services program, where children with disabilities are integrated into traditional league teams.
“We love them so much,” McRackan said. “Our goal with Rosie is to have her pretty much live as any other child would.”
Rosie’s condition is congenital. Along with being born without her lower left arm, she also has hip disarticulation, meaning she’s missing the entirety of her right leg, which affects only 1 to 2 percent of all amputees.
And while some told the McRackans it would be more difficult raising a child like Rosie, they disagreed. For the most part, Jessica McRackan said raising Rosie isn’t any more difficult than raising a two-armed, two-legged baby – except for getting a diaper to stay on a child with one leg. The McRackans have two other daughters, Amber, age 4, and Hazel, age 1.
Still, there were moments that Jessica, 35, and her husband, Dinah, 37, struggled. They were uncertain if their daughter would ever be able to walk.
“Things didn’t get challenging until I was watching my friends’ kids learning to walk,” she said. “And not knowing if Rosie would walk.”
They decided to get Rosie a prosthetic walking leg when she was just over a year old. She was walking by 2 1/2, and now, she also has one made specifically for running. This year she got an arm that’s myoelectric, which is controlled with the electric signals generated naturally by her muscles, and another that is controlled by a cable. Weekly physical therapy is a part of Rosie’s routine, along with countless visits to the prosthetic specialist.
McRackan said they prefer to minimize the extra or specialized devices in Rosie’s life because she’s not always going to have them. The same goes for recreation; when Rosie turned 5, her parents decided she would join the Bluejays.
A feeling of belonging
Cary’s Inclusion Services program is headed by Judy Newsome, who said the goal is to foster success for every individual in the league.
There are other specialized recreation leagues in the area, like the Miracle League and Cary Parks and Recreation’s Abilities Tennis team, she said. But every parent is different in what they prefer for their child. Newsome works with the child and his or her family and coach to integrate them into the program.
“It’s all about awareness,” said Newsome. “We want to focus on looking at their abilities and really not focusing on that they have a disability, because everybody is unique.”
We want to focus on looking at their abilities and really not focusing on that they have a disability, because everybody is unique.
Judy Newsome of Cary’s Inclusion Services program
Bluejays Coach Dennis Sparks, who has coached T-Ball for 10 years, met with Rosie before the season began. He even made her a lighter, one-handed bat from scratch.
“She’s bound and determined,” Sparks said. “When she wants to do something, she’s going to do it. She’s not going to ask for any help.”
When it comes to the other players, Sparks said, they give Rosie a warm welcome.
“They treat her really well,” Sparks said. “I have not had any kid make a bad comment about her, either on our team or on the opposing teams.”
Newsome said she hopes the program teaches the children to move past differences.
“Everyone wants to belong,” she said. “So I think that’s the big thing, is just giving them an opportunity to participate just like everyone else. They can connect with their peers and make friends and participate alongside everyone else.”
Just a kid
Rosie is a happy, outgoing girl who easily chats with children and adults alike. Questions are part of the family’s daily lives, and Rosie is used to answering them, especially from other children.
“We are continually meeting new people, so she’s always having to explain, ‘No, I can’t tie my shoes, but it’s because I’m 6, and they’re Velcro,’ ” said her mother.
But her experience on the T-Ball team has given her a place where she fits in. At the same time, other children are exposed to Rosie’s differences. After the first few practices, those children stopped asking questions, Jessica McRackan said.
“When they meet others that are obviously different, they’ll have some framework for understanding that just because this person’s body looks really different doesn’t mean they’re not capable,” she said.
Rosie used to bat last, her mother said, so other kids wouldn’t pass her. But this year, she was mixed in with the regular lineup. While Rosie may not be the fastest or as good as some of the other players, her mother said Rosie just loves what she does.
Life can be hectic for the family, with home-schooling and going back and forth from appointments. But McRackan said the hard work pays off when they see their daughter playing ball and how much she’s improved.
They think about how many people helped her get where she is today.
“(Now) we have a little girl who plays T-Ball and runs the bases and scores a point for her team,” Jessica McRackan said. “Just like the other kids.”
Email Paige Connelly at email@example.com.
To learn more about Cary’s Inclusion Services program, contact Judy Newsome at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-462-2027.